Things to Do in Singapore
All great cities of the world seem to have a big wheel these days, and Singapore is no exception. Lifting you 540 feet (165 meters) into the air, the Singapore Flyer is Asia’s largest observation wheel, providing amazing panoramic views of the city, the sea, and the surrounds from one of 28 capsules.
A Singapore landmark, Merlion Park is named for its centerpiece, the Merlion statue, which spouts water into Marina Bay. With the head of a lion and the body of a fish, the Merlion is the national icon of Singapore. The park is also popular with locals, who come here to play and relax along the waterfront.
Wild Wild Wet, one of Singapore’s largest water parks, has everything you’d want and expect in a water-themed amusement park. The park’s dozen or so rides and attractions range from waterslides and a wave pool to kids areas and the relaxing Shiok River, where guests can float leisurely around the perimeter of the park.
An unusual museum 30 feet (nine meters) beneath Fort Canning Hill, the secretive British military fort known as Battlebox once played an important role in Singapore’s history. Used by the Malaya Command to defend Singapore during World War II, the bunker was where Lieutenant-General Arthur Percival ultimately surrendered Singapore to the Japanese, marking the decline of the British Empire. Today, the cavernous space is filled with lifelike wax mannequins and antique photos and video clips that depict what it was like to live and strategize within the gray, 29-room labyrinth during the final days of the war.
Singapore Zoo isn’t your typical menagerie; inside, more than 300 species of birds, reptiles, and mammals roam in close approximations of their natural habitats. Visitors to the lush jungle park can observe an abundance of wildlife, including lions, white tigers, giraffes, flying foxes, sea lions, and Komodo dragons.
For many visitors, Singapore’s Chinatown is the sightseeing focus of the city, home to traditional shophouses, temples, and cultural heritage. Take a wander down the atmospheric streets, dropping into shophouses to see what’s for sale. Admire the rooftop dragons of Thian Hock Keng Temple, dedicated to the Goddess of the Sea, and the festively gaudy Hindu Sri Mariamman Temple, covered with colorful cows and depictions of the gods. Of course, Chinatown is also the place to go to for great food, especially along Smith Street.
Lining the Singapore River, the renovated riverside warehouses and “godown” shophouses of historic Clarke Quay comprise one of Singapore’s major wining and dining precincts. Now pedestrianized and home to shops, restaurants, nightclubs, river cruise bumboats, and floating cafés, Clarke Quay is a good place to look for varied cuisines—from Italian to brewhouse to fine French—and relaxed outdoor bars with riverfront views. It’s also where you’ll find Singapore’s wild Reverse Bungy adventure ride.
The legendary Night Safari at Singapore Zoo goes above and beyond the typical zoo experience. Enhanced by the subtle glow of moonlight, the jungle comes to life each night for visitors to see animals exploring their free-roaming environments, designed to replicate the Himalayan foothills, Southeast Asian rainforest, and Indian subcontinent.
From New York to San Francisco, big cities are known for their beautiful bridges. But perhaps none are as impressive as Singapore’s Helix Bridge. Originally known at the Double Helix Bridge, this scenic footbridge is encased with twisting metal tubes and shimmering lights reminiscent of DNA strands. Helix was opened in April 2010, but the popular walkway was not accessible to travelers until July of that year. Today, visitors can wander the steel encased path linking Marina South and Marina Centre, while staring out over a pristine bay bathed in brilliant lights. Travelers love to walk the path in the early daylight hours, or late at night, when the area proves most picturesque.
For subcontinental color, cuisine, and atmosphere, head to Singapore’s Little India, one of the island’s most vibrant districts. Shops, restaurants, street vendors, and colorful Hindu temples line the streets of Little India, making it an excellent place to take a walk. The culture and community center of Little India, Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple is the neighborhood’s most important Hindu Temple, dedicated to the goddess Kali.
More Things to Do in Singapore
Singapore’s premier performance venue overlooks the super-sleek Marina Bay Waterfront. Esplanade-Theatres on the Bay consists of a 1,600-seat concert hall and 2,000-seat theater. The complex has waterfront and open-air venues and hosts more than 3,000 performances annually.
Touted as the world’s most expensive casino complex—costing a cool $8 billion—Marina Bay Sands is Singapore’s most lavish resort, boasting a stunning waterfront location. Alongside the casino, there’s a 2,561-room hotel, luxury shopping mall, a giant rooftop infinity pool, and some of Singapore’s most exclusive bars, restaurants, and nightclubs.
Sentosa Island is home to nearly 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) of white sandy beaches, Siloso, Palawan and Tanjong Beaches. Of the three, Palawan Beach(Pulau Palawan) is most geared toward families. This long stretch of sand features a fountain playground, shower facilities, a hawker center selling inexpensive food, themed islets for picnicking and a suspension bridge linking the beach with the Southernmost Point of Continental Asia.
An amphitheater at Palawan Beach(Pulau Palawan) hosts the Animal and Bird Encounters, a series of reptile and bird displays included in the price of Sentosa admission.
Once inhabited by the Malay and Muslim elite of Singapore, the Kampong Glam neighborhood is one of the city’s most attractive. Former shop houses have been restored to their former beauty and now house modern shops and restaurants. The area is also home to the Sultan Mosque and Malay Heritage Centre.
Dating back to 1859, the Singapore Botanic Gardens displays a collection of some 10,000 types of plants—mostly tropical flora—across 183 landscaped acres (84 hectares). The expansive grounds are home to the National Orchid Garden, with its impressive collection of 60,000 colorful orchids representing 1,000 species and 2,000 hybrids.
Founded in 1887 as a 10-room bungalow on the shores of the Singapore River, the resplendent Raffles Hotel has grown to icon status throughout the Far East, attracting celebrity guests from Charlie Chaplin to Queen Elizabeth II. In 1915 another legend was born when hotel bartender Ngiam Tong Boon introduced guests—and subsequently the world—to the Singapore Sling cocktail. A multiphased restoration program is returning the Raffles to its original 19th-century glory.
Located in Singapore’s super-sleek business district, Fort Canning Park is a hilltop oasis that encompasses nine smaller historic parks. In addition to a fragrant spice garden, an art gallery, and some grandiose Gothic gates, Fort Canning Park is also home to a World War II bunker and command center.
Ubin Island is a granite island off the northwest of Singapore island, in the Straits of Johor, between Singapore and Malaysia. The spot—full of lush forest, hiking and cycling trails, and traditional wooden buildings—is a popular retreat for locals and offers a glimpse into what Singapore was like before its extensive development.
As Southeast Asia’s first movie-themed park, Universal Studios Singapore offers a slew of exciting attractions, including 24 movie-themed rides, a festive walk, water park, marine life park and maritime experiential museum and aquarium. Opened in 2011 with director Steven Spielberg as a creative consultant, the kid-friendly park takes inspiration from some of Hollywood’s biggest hits, including Transformers, The Lost World, and Madagascar.
Built across the mouth of Singapore’s Marina Channel, the Marina Barrage serves as both a dam that helps alleviate flooding and supplies 10 percent of the nation's water, and a popular leisure and recreation destination for locals and visitors to enjoy.
The most popular spot at the Marina Barrage is the elevated section of grass that looks out across the city and is ideal for picnics, sunset vistas, and photo opportunities. The Solar Park features one of the largest collections of solar panels in Singapore, with more than 400 panels providing the barrage’s electricity at night. Those interested in green issues will enjoy the Sustainable Singapore Gallery, which features six rooms exploring different aspects of the city’s environmental infrastructure using multimedia displays and interactive exhibits.
Those with a particular interest in Singapore’s eco-friendly culture should join a sustainable Singapore guided tour, which combines a visit to Marina Barrage with the NEWater Plant, Singapore River, and Supertree Grove at Gardens by the Bay. For a unique perspective of the barrage, join a kayak tour to Singapore Flyer, Gardens by the Bay, and Marina Bay Sands.
The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum is perhaps the best place in Singapore for a look at Chinese Buddhism. Located in the heart of Chinatown, the temple is believed to house a sacred relic of the Buddha, housed within a gold stupa inside the temple.
While the temple exhibits Tang Dynasty architectural elements, it was actually built in 2007. In just a few short years, it has become a major landmark in Chinatown and a popular destination for both tourists and worshipers.
After visiting the main temple and viewing the various Buddha statuary, make sure to check out the museum on the third floor. Here, you’ll find a collection of Buddhist relics, artifacts and works of art. Also of interest is the History Gallery that outlines the conceptualization and construction of the temple. Admission to both the museum and temple is free, and guided tours in English are available twice per week.
With a sinister past as a quarantine center, political prison, and drug rehab operation, St. John’s Island remains one of the quieter of Singapore’s outlying islands, with not so much as a café or a shop. Spend the night in bungalows, enjoy the island’s cat population, or fish from the pier or off the beach.
The Old Supreme Court Building housed Singapore’s highest court for more than 60 years, until the judiciary arm moved to a more modern building in 2005. Today, the architectural icon—which was the last classical building to be completed in Singapore—houses the National Gallery Singapore.
Recently rebuilt to reflect the architecture of the old Malay kampong houses, Geylang Serai Market has been at the heart of Singapore's Malay community since the mid-1960s. With its distinctive three-tiered entrance, the market is a bustling hub of activity from sunrise to sunset. It features a wet market selling an array of fresh produce and other products on the ground floor, and a hugely popular hawker food center with plenty of Malay and Indian specialities on its first floor.
The wet market offers a variety of fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, seafood, and spices, and is a good place to pick up decorative fabrics too. However, it’s the food court upstairs that’s the main attraction for most visitors. This huge space is filled with vendors serving up classic Asian dishes such as nasi padang (rice with various ingredients), ayam balado (spicy fried chicken), sayur lodeh (vegetable curry), and pisang goreng (banana fritters).
Geylang Serai Market offers a clean and vibrant place for the whole family to experience dishes from the local Malay community and beyond. Devoted foodies can enjoy it as part of a heritage food tour that also includes visiting the foodie destinations of Joo Chiat and Katong, while culture vultures might like to combine it with a neighborhood walk around Geylang, Chinatown, and Little India.
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